Ethereum’s ‘Merge’ Will Happen Tonight
The much-anticipated ‘Merge’ is upon us…
Based on the latest countdown, Ethereum users expect the massive network upgrade to begin around 10pm PST, with the second-largest crypto is set to shift to a more environmentally friendly model that may help attract investors who opine that bitcoin’s model uses too much electricity.
The Ethereum blockchain will transition away from its energy-intensive consensus mechanism Proof-of-Work as its execution layer merges with the new Proof-od-Stake consensus layer known as the Beacon Chain.
The so-called ‘Merge’ is like upgrading a rocket ship after its launch: “It is an epic engineering feat.”
It is worth noting that some PoW miners that previously mined blocks and maintained the execution layer have indicated that they will continue to do so.
The PoS-powered Ethereum blockchain will continue to use ETH after the Merge, while another hypothetical PoW Ethereum network, dubbed ETHPOW, could fork away with the creation of an ETHW token.
The last 24 hours or so – thanks in large part to yesterday’s CPI-charged chaos – Ethereum has traded lower, but stabilized today around $1600…
As WSJ reminds, Bitcoin pioneered the proof-of-work model where a global, decentralized network of computers processes transactions and adds them to the blockchain by generating random numbers in hopes of finding the right combination to unlock formulas.
The miners receive newly minted bitcoins as rewards.
In the proof-of-stake model Ethereum is moving to, validators put their crypto holdings on the line to verify transactions.
The “staked” ether tokens act as collateral that can be destroyed or confiscated if the validators behave dishonestly.
The validators accrue interest payments on their staked assets as a reward.
For example, staking on the ethereum blockchain prior to the merge would fetch a 4.1% annual percentage rate, according to the Ethereum Foundation.
Simply put, ethereum’s big makeover means it will take a lot less energy to verify transactions, slashing energy consumption by more than 99% will also go a long way toward lowering the barrier to entry for institutional investors, who have been battling the optics of contributing to the climate crisis.
One River’s Sebastian Dae noted earlier in the week that, it’ll be boring if all goes according to plan, nothing like the excitement of watching the force of a rocket launch. Alas, the dream of every successful layer 1 is precisely that – to be a boring, secure platform that is eventually taken for granted, invisible to the users who demand more from their tools. The Merge is one step closer to that reality.
The actual process is expected to take about 12 minutes, during which time about 150 developers will be on high alert to address any potential hitches.
The Ethereum Foundation is holding its own livestream to watch the transition from the current ‘proof-of-work’ network to its new ‘proof-of-stake’ paradigm…
Proof-of-Work and Proof-of-Stake are arguably the best-known consensus mechanisms – but new ones are continually emerging.
PoW blockchains have long dominated the cryptocurrency landscape, with both Bitcoin and Ethereum using this model. This means miners are responsible for securing the network and validating transactions — and they get rewarded with new coins as a result.
However, a common criticism surrounding Proof-of-Work relates to how much energy it uses, and the impact such blockchains have on the environment. Miners need to use vast amounts of computing power to solve arbitrary mathematical equations. More advanced hardware has been required as the industry matured, with electricity usage surging too.
This has led Proof-of-Stake to be regarded as a more eco-friendly approach. Miners are replaced by validators — nodes that have a financial stake in the smooth running of the network. While proponents claim this can use 99% less energy than PoW, some fear PoS can lead to greater levels of centralization and censorship. Ethereum is currently in the process of moving to this consensus mechanism during The Merge — and it’ll be interesting to see how this high-stakes experiment pans out.
A new approach is known as Published Proof-of-Contribution, otherwise known as PPoC for short. Here, every single participant has a role to play in ensuring the ecosystem is decentralized, democratic and well-governed.
According to one estimate on the Ethereum Foundation’s blog, the merge will result in a reduction of at least 99.95% in total energy use, but not everyone is clear on the benefits.
“There are some misconceptions among the wider public around what kind of benefits the Merge is going to bring,” Henry Elder, Head of DeFi at digital asset management firm Wave Financial, told Decrypt.
“It’s not going to make Ethereum faster, more scalable and cheaper. It’s just Ethereum that goes from proof-of-work to proof-of-stake.”
Additionally, MicroStrategy’s Michael Saylor shared a few high level thoughts on Bitcoin Mining & the Environment…
1. Bitcoin Energy Utilization: Bitcoin runs on stranded, excess energy, generated at the edge of the grid, in places where there is no other demand, at times when no one else needs the electricity. Retail & commercial consumers of electricity in major population areas pay 5-10x more per kwH (10-20 cents per kwH) than bitcoin miners, who should be thought of as wholesale consumers of energy (normally budgeting 2-3 cents per kwH). The world produces more energy than it needs, and approximately a third of this energy is wasted. The last 15 basis points of energy power the entire Bitcoin Network – this is the least valued, cheapest margin of energy left after 99.85% of the energy in the world is allocated to other uses.
2. Bitcoin vs. Other Industries: Bitcoin mining is the most efficient, cleanest industrial use of electricity, and is improving its energy efficiency at the fastest rate across any major industry. Our metrics show ~59.5% of energy for bitcoin mining comes from sustainable sources and energy efficiency improved 46% YoY. No other industry comes close (consider planes, trains, automobiles, healthcare, banking, construction, precious metals, etc.). The bitcoin network keeps getting more energy efficient because of the relentless improvement in the semiconductors (SHA-256 ASICs) that power the bitcoin mining centers, combined with the halving of bitcoin mining rewards every four years that is built into the protocol. This results in a consistent 18-36% improvement year after year in energy efficiency. More details on this are included in the BMC Presentation.
3. Bitcoin Value Creation & Energy Intensity: Approximately $4-5 billion in electricity is used to power & secure a network that is worth $420 billion as of today, and settles $12 billion per day ($4 trillion per year). The value of the output is 100x the cost of the energy input. This makes Bitcoin far less energy intensive than Google, Netflix, or Facebook, and 1-2 orders of magnitude less energy intensive than traditional 20th century industries like airlines, logistics, retail, hospitality, & agriculture.
4. Bitcoin vs. Other Cryptos: The only proven technique for creating a digital commodity is Proof of Work (bitcoin mining) deployed in a fair, equitable fashion (i.e. no pre-mine, no ICO, no controlling foundation, no primary software development team, no series of forced hard fork upgrades that materially change the monetary protocol). If we remove the dedicated hardware (SHA-256 ASICs) and the dedicated energy that powers those mining rigs, we are left with a network secured by proprietary software running on generic computers. That places all security & control of the network in the hands of a small group of software developers, who must create virtual machines doing virtual work with virtual energy in a virtual world to create virtual security. All attempts to date have resulted in a digital asset that meets the definition of an investment contract (i.e. digital security, not digital commodity). They all pass the Howie test and therefore look more like equities than commodities.
Regulators & legal experts have noted on many occasions that Proof of Stake networks are likely securities, not commodities, and we can expect them to be treated as such over time. PoS Crypto Securities may be appropriate for certain applications, but they are not suitable to serve as global, open, fair money or a global open settlement network. Therefore, it makes no sense to compare Proof of Stake networks to Bitcoin. The creation of a digital commodity without an issuer that serves as “digital gold” is an innovation (we have accomplished this only once in the history of the world with Bitcoin). The creation of a digital security or digital coupon on a shared database is utterly ordinary (it has been done 20,000 times in the crypto world, and 100,000+ times in the traditional world).
5. Bitcoin & Carbon Emissions: 99.92% of carbon emissions in the world are due to industrial uses of energy other than bitcoin mining. Bitcoin mining is neither the problem nor the solution to the challenge of reducing carbon emissions. It is in fact a rounding error and would hardly be noticed if it were not for the competitive guerrilla marketing activities of other crypto promoters & lobbyists that seek to focus negative attention on Proof of Work mining in order to distract regulators, politicians, & the general public from the inconvenient truth that Proof of Stake crypto assets are generally unregistered securities trading on unregulated exchanges to the detriment of the retail investing public.
6. Bitcoin & Environmental Benefits: There is an increasing awareness that Bitcoin is quite beneficial to the environment because it can be deployed to monetize stranded natural gas or methane gas energy sources. Methane gas emissions’ curtailment is particularly compelling and Dan Batten (https://batcoinz.com/) has written some impressive papers on this subject. It has also become clear that energy grids that rely primarily on sustainable power sources like wind, hydro, & solar can be unreliable at times due to lack of water, sunlight, or wind. In this case, they need to be paired with a large electricity consumer like a bitcoin miner in order to develop grid resilience & finance the buildout of additional capacity necessary to responsibly power major industrial/population centers. The recent example of major Bitcoin energy curtailment on the ERCOT grid in Texas is an example of the benefits of bitcoin mining to sustainable power providers. No other industrial energy consumer is so well suited to monetize excess power as well as curtail flexibly during periods of energy shortfall & production volatility.
7. Bitcoin & Global Energy: Bitcoin maximalists believe that Bitcoin is an instrument of economic empowerment for 8 billion people around the world. This is supported by the ability of a bitcoin miner to monetize any power source, anywhere, anytime, at any scale. Bitcoin mining can bring a clean, profitable and modern industry that generates hard currency to a remote location in the developing world, connected only via satellite link. All that is needed is some excess electricity generated from a waterfall, geothermal source, or miscellaneous excess energy deposit. Google, Netflix, and Apple won’t be setting up data centers in Central Africa that export services to their wealthy western clients anytime soon due to constraints on bandwidth, privacy, & requirements for consistent power flow, but bitcoin miners are not hampered by these constraints. They can utilize erratic power supplies with low bandwidth in remote locations and generate valuable bitcoin without prejudice, just as if they were in a suburb of NYC, LA, or SF. Even now, Bitcoin miners are everywhere and will continue to spread (though Africa, Asia, South America, etc.) wherever there is excess energy and anyone with aspirations for a better life. Bitcoin is an egalitarian financial asset offering financial inclusion to all, and bitcoin mining is an egalitarian technology industry offering commercial inclusion to anyone with the energy & engineering capability to operate a mining center.
Finally, we note that the average Ethereum user and ETH holder need not worry about losing their funds or making any changes to preferred wallets before the Merge. As the entire history of the Ethereum blockchain is carried across in the transition – all funds in wallets are still accessible and safe.
Most importantly – be wary of scams. Cointelegraph has compiled a list of the three most prominent ways malicious actors are trying to prey on the Merge event. Fraudulent staking pools, upgrade scams, and fake airdrops are being touted. You do not need to upgrade your wallet or send your ETH to receive new tokens.
Wed, 09/14/2022 – 20:00
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